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A Unique Partnership in Western Uganda

Posted On: March 28, 2024

By Elijah Mwashayenyi, Head of Knowledge Transfer for Africa, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation

Elijah Mwashayenyi, EWS-KT's Head of Knowledge Transfer for Africa, shakes hands with Rose Amulen, AVSI Foundation's Senior Program Officer for Economic Inclusion.
Elijah Mwashayenyi (EWS-KT Head of Knowledge Transfer for Africa) meets with Rose Amulen (AVSI Senior Program Officer for Economic Inclusion) in Kyegegwa Town, Uganda.

Increased participation by women is widely accepted as one of the keys to improved and sustainable farming in Africa. It is even more so for vegetable production. Therefore, it is not surprising that East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation has left no stone unturned in its quest to increase the participation of such an important demographic.

In Kyaka II refugee settlement and host communities in the Western Region of Uganda, the effort has been made easier by a strategic partnership with a key player in development, AVSI Foundation.

A Match Made in . . . Western Uganda

Members of the Mapendo Women's Group stand between a plot of cabbage and a demonstration plot of tomato, with a banner in front of the demo plot.
Members of the Mapendo Women’s Group stand between their tomato demonstration plot and their cabbage plot, which also uses Good Agricultural Practices, in Buriza village, Kyaka II refugee settlement.

AVSI Foundation works toward development that is sustainable and capable of responding to the real needs of people in 33 countries. AVSI focuses on social and economic empowerment, including entrepreneurship, while EWS-KT is the go-to organization for training in vegetable production and marketing in nine countries in Africa and Asia.

Unbeknownst to EWS-KT, AVSI had been seeking service providers that could support operationalizing its entrepreneurship training in western Uganda. Enter EWS-KT with its mantra of growing vegetables as a business, and it was like a duck to water. 

The partnership between EWS-KT and AVSI came together quickly, through the concerted efforts of Jordan Canocakacon, AVSI Chief of Party, and Joshua Mwanguhuya, EWS-KT Knowledge Transfer Manager for Uganda. Soon after, in October 2023, knowledge transfer activities commenced in Kyaka II as part of the Increasing Good Agricultural Practices and Access to Quality Horticultural Seeds in Kyaka II and Kyangwali Refugee Settlements and Host Communities project.

This partnership has a few interesting dimensions:

  • Over the past year or so, EWS-KT has been on a major drive to convince farmers to make business plans. With AVSI already training farmers in business planning, EWS-KT has a major component of its work covered, thereby enabling it to focus on what the organization is most experienced at: training in crop agronomy.
  • EWS-KT’s model centers on intensively training key farmers on their own demonstration plots, which are used as hubs for training neighboring farmers as well. The organization has a role in mobilizing such farmers. With the partnership, EWS-KT found the farmers already mobilized by AVSI.
  • EWS-KT emphasizes proper record keeping, something AVSI had already taught the farmers.
  • AVSI also trains households in changing their mindset, which is very handy for the work of EWS-KT, as there is a need for the farmer to develop a business mindset. In short, this is a perfect match made in . . . western Uganda.

Women’s Participation

Technical Field Officer Nicholas Turyahikayo, standing between rows of tomato plants, talks about tomato production with members of the Tukwanise Group, a farmer groups that is largely women.
EWS-KT Technical Field Officer Nicholas Turyahikayo (in maroon golf shirt) talks about the essentials of tomato production with the Tukwanise Group.

AVSI has mobilized 149 groups in the project area, which encompasses both the refugee settlement and the host communities around it. EWS-KT is currently working with 20 groups that immediately expressed interest in vegetable production. More will surely follow suit. The unique thing about the groups is that they are dominated by women; in fact, over 80% of the participants are women. All-women groups are common. The observation by Nicholas Turyahikayo and Faith Akampumuza, the EWS-KT Technical Field Officers working with the 20 groups, is that the women are more organized when it comes to forming groups and maintaining group dynamics. They are also more willing to share information. Indeed, the groups are very organized.

Experience of Group Members

EWS-KT Technical Field Officer Faith Akampumuza smiles as she looks at the onion plot managed by the Gambanokora Group of farmers.
EWS-KT Technical Field Officer Faith Akampumuza looks happy with what she is seeing at the Gambanokora Group demonstration site in the host community.

The group members have various experience in farming. Some have grown the vegetables EWS-KT offers training on. Others have not. Those who have grown them before agree that they have never seen them grown in the EWS-KT way of quality seeds and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). They also agree that the yields in the demonstration plot facilitated by EWS-KT are indeed heavy, and some of the farmers have already bought seeds in preparation for the upcoming rainy season. With good extension services offered by EWS-KT, the future really looks bright for the people of this region, with better yields and incomes.

Standing in an onion field, EWS-KT Project Lead David Baguma talks to the Kanyamunziizi Twimukye Group of largely women farmers.
EWS-KT Project Lead David Baguma stresses the importance of growing vegetables as a business to the Kanyamunziizi Twimukye Group, located in the host community.

Agro-Input Suppliers: A Critical Stakeholder

Skills training backed by quality inputs (or vice versa) is always a winner; it is the catalyst to improving productivity. It goes without saying that the extension efforts of EWS-KT in Kyaka II have been embraced by agro-input suppliers, who say they have especially seen a recent surge in demand for quality seeds due to demonstrations by EWS-KT.

Agro-input shop owner Grace Kamwine in her shop.
Grace Kamwine, owner of Excel Farmers Agroinputs.

“I know what is happening in the field, even without going to the field, because of what the farmers are demanding from my shop,” said Grace Kamwine, who has been selling East-West Seed products for the past three years in her shop, Excel Farmers Agroinputs, but has recently seen an increase in demand. She looks forward to attending upcoming Field Days at the participating groups’ demonstration plots.

Looking Ahead

The initiative between EWS-KT and AVSI in western Uganda cannot be a flash in the pan, for just a fraction of the smallholder farmers have been introduced to what can be. There are many more who deserve the same service: not scaling up is not an option. Smallholder farmers in the beautiful rolling hills of western Uganda have harbored immense potential since time immemorial. Their markets are waiting, be they local (Kyaka), Kampala, South Sudan, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or elsewhere. That potential can now be unleashed by more Technical Field Officers on the ground and more funding to facilitate an expanded extension effort. Our small team in western Uganda and partner AVSI have already shown us the way.

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